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Elena Berezina
Elena Berezina - UkraineStatus: Married, 2 children
Main crop: Table grapes
Lead farmer to 20 UHDP clients
Area under Project crop: 1.5 hectares
Other source of income: wheat, sunflowers, oats

Before the Project:
My husband and I studied agriculture in St. Petersburg, Russia. We had heard about opportunities for farmers in Ukraine from my sister, and after graduating we moved to a small village in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya oblast. My husband and I began a successful grain and sunflower operation, which continues to run strong today. It had long been my dream to start an agricultural business of my own, however due to gender norms and preconceived notions of the role of women in Ukraine, this was not an easy task.

Market Problem:
Gender and cultural norms in Ukraine make it difficult for women to start innovative enterprises.

Project Activity:
I first heard about the UHDP when I became a member of the Ukrainian Women Farmers Council (UWFC).
The UWFC is not only a place for learning agriculture and business skills, but it also provides its members with a strong support network. Since my idea to start my own agribusiness was met with skepticism from my husband, support is what I needed the most. Thanks to the UHDP and the UWFC I got the support I needed! I showed my husband several examples of successful women entrepreneurs, and he changed his mind about what women are capable of professionally. With my husband on board and a capital boost from the Gender Innovation Fund (GIF), I started my own grape-growing enterprise; which was a pioneering business venture in our area.
In June of 2010, I planted my grapes on 1.5 hectares of land.

In 2012 I received my first yield: 2.5 tonnes of table grapes and 1⁄2 tone of technical grapes for wine and juices. This is not yet a business yield; next year we will have the volumes to make a profit. We expect a yearly income of 200,000 UAH (approx.$25,000CAD) from the grapes, minus 10% for expenses.

I was one of the first UHDP members to receive the GIF. I acted as sort of a pioneer, and I was able to encourage my neighbors to join the UHDP as well. At first, people in my community were distrustful of the Project and of the idea of working together, but I have noticed these non-cooperative attitudes that were left in the wake of the Communist Regime changing now, thanks to the Project. People see the benefits to sharing knowledge and working together. We have learned to be more open with each other, and that around us there are friends who are willing to help. As a lead farmer, I always want to help; I provide endless consultations, even in winter! To pass on some of the kindness I have received from the Project, I even gave four people in my village free seedlings so they could start their own vineyards too!